If You Want to Sing Out
There is so much to be down on ourselves about. If you’re anything like me, nothing is ever enough, is ever good enough. It’s a terrible burden to feel this way, and it’s come to my attention that it’s not a requirement to living. Self-castigation and -flagellation are not required for a good and noble life.
Today, I’m trying an experiment. It’s like meditating — it seems to be working for a few seconds and then it flits away, slips our grip, abandons us.
Instead of thinking, “Wow, I can’t even meditate. Not even for 10 seconds,” why not think, “Wow, I’m meditating. Or if not meditating exactly, I’m here, I’ve brought myself to my pillow, my mat, my corner of the room. I managed to focus on my breath for… almost ten seconds. I felt my breath move the tiny hairs on my upper lip. I felt my chest rise, and then fall…
I had my 6 a.m. writing class this morning, and as usual it put me in the best mood ever. I began my class in the dark and felt the sun rise on the world. She sent her rays, tentative at first, into my dining room from an oblique angle, tender, cool fingers of light. Now, at 8:30 a.m., she announces her presence with fanfare. She flounces in with determination, then hesitates, just out the gate, still near the horizon, offering light with a sweet, virginal quality. Nothing overt or rowdy here. Something tender, and pretty.
The birds respond, turning to face the sun from the branches of the pear tree, their fluffy, ashy breasts burnished silver in the light.
When class ended, Cat Steven’s famous song, the tender Morning Has Broken, filled my mind, because, well, the sun, who crept in on cat’s feet (to steal an idea from Carl Sandberg), delivered me from the dark, brought color and light to my world, spilled a narrow band of warmth onto my wood floor, which Daisy immediately found and curled up in.
I felt so good after my class. Another Cat Stevens song popped into my head. If you want to sing out, sing out. And if you want to be free, be free. Cuz there’s a million things to be, you know that there are.
Once again, after my writing class, I realized that anything goes in writing. It’s totally liberating. There is nothing that is not worthy of documenting, of setting down, of exploring. Nothing. Anything you select can be imbued with tenderness, emotion, pity, fury.
A dear friend used to say about procrastination (something I suffer from mightily), just chew on a corner. Just begin. Just five minutes. Just open the thing. The file. The book. The journal. The laptop. Pick up the pen.
I want to sing out, and here’s what I want to say.
The refrigerator has been stinking for two days. I knew there were chicken innards in there that I’d meant to cook up — the liver in butter in a little cast-iron pan for me, the neck, heart, and gizzards for stock — but I didn’t get to it in time.
After class this morning, I tore open the refrigerator door and took everything out. I found the offending items and tossed them in the green bin in the driveway. I returned to my kitchen and made myself a plain yogurt with granola, banana, dried cherries, walnuts, and a little whole milk. I walked away from all the food on the counter.
I hummed Cat Stevens. I looked out the window, saw my dear neighbors in their hulking, army-green van pull a U-turn in front of my house. I watched an aged couple make their way carefully down the hill, their legs in perfect synchronization, the morning sun glancing off the sides of their faces.
The house is quiet. Morning has this special quality. I want to capture it, bottle it, remember it.
I want to sing out, to sing of the baby Gingko tree in my front yard that shines silver on one side at this time of day. Swollen buds perch all along her young branches, clothing tiny, fan-shaped leaves that haven’t changed since the prehistoric era. I want to sing of the glossy, dark green camellia leaves illuminated from underneath like tiny stained-glass windows.
Daisy just moved because the sunbeam moved. She instinctively follows the sun. Warmth. It’s what we all want. Limbs made languid from the sun’s heat. Let’s sing out about that, and all of the other delights of life that come unbidden to us, that require no payment, that need only our attention and appreciation. A bit of our time, perhaps.
Last night, I dreamt that my daughter and I were sort of skating or skimming along on the surfaces of vast, interconnected puddles of water along a broad, empty avenue. We were barefoot, just gliding over the water like two little water striders. What a great name. That’s exactly what we were doing: striding. Striding along the surfaces of puddles, going fast, holding hands, laughing, flying, together.
It was free. We needed no equipment, no possessions, no coffees, no tickets, no furniture, no shows, no money. Just our strong limbs and what nature offered in the moment.
Of course, this was a dream. We would fall through the membrane of water were we actually to try this, but the lightness, the play, the plashing, the silvery sound of the water, are always there to be had.
I live near the top of a hill, the bottom of which ends in a body of water known as the San Francisco Bay. How often do I go to the water’s edge? Maybe four or five times a year. Wha…?
Maybe you see my point.
Sing out. See what is there. Grasp it. Celebrate it.
I don’t know why it’s so hard to remember to do this. To remember it’s always possible.
But, then, again, I know it’s not true. I know what it feels like to be mired. To be glued inside a closed carapace, with no way out. To feel around inside in desperation, short of breath, close to panic, for a zipper, a crack, a hand. For help.
Humans are good at subsuming themselves.
Reading Anne Carson’s beautiful The Glass Essay in our class this morning was sweetly liberating. It’s because she includes everything. She flies. She skims the surface just like those water striders do, just as my daughter and I did in my dream last night. And in tripping along life’s surface, she offers up plenty of beauty, but also plenty of mundanity. The florescent light in the refrigerator. Her mother’s querulous questions. Her father’s black teeth. Annoyance. Depression. Surrender. Pain. Isolation. Loneliness.
She serves it all up, she serves life up.
I like this kind of writing the best. I want it all. The sublime, but also the nasty bits. I want to know that I am not the only one with shit that stinks, to use a crude expression.
I have respect for what … what? The muse? Someone, whoever it is hiding inside me, serves up. She must have her reasons for the choices she makes.
“What would happen if you took yourself seriously?” a therapist once asked me. I’m still puzzling over his question.
What would my life be like if I actually trusted the person inside of me to know what’s best for me?
What would my life be like if I was actually free? Or free-er? Free in my mind, in my spirit, awake and alive?
What would my life be like if I actually ate the magic mushrooms my son gave me for Christmas? If I were to meditate daily for 30 minutes, as my son is doing? If I were brave enough to do the work to actually, physically, bodily, with fanfare, remove the monkey from my back and discard it where it can never reach me again?
And now, at risk of over-extending my analogy, I’ll leave you with these lyrics from Can’t Keep It In, another great Cat Stevens song:
Oh, I can’t keep it in, I can’t keep it in
I’ve gotta let it out
I’ve gotta show the world, world’s gotta see
See all the love, love that’s in me
I said, “why walk alone, why worry when it’s warm over here?”
You’ve got so much to say, say what you mean
Mean what you’re thinkin’, and think anything
Oh why, why must you waste your life away?
You’ve got to live for today, then let it go…
Live for today, then let it go. I’m trying, Cat. I’m trying. Baby steps.